West Bromwich Albion 2-3 Manchester City: Citizens address road worries with convincing performance at The Hawthorns

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Playing as if to dispel the growing notion they can’t win away from home, Manchester City put in a dominant display at The Hawthorns, with early goals from Sergio Agüero and Yaya Touré paving the Citizens’ way to a comfortable 3-2 victory over West Bromwich Albion. A late own goal credited to Costel Pantilimon and a 94th minute score from Victor Anichebe made the final score superficially close, with Touré’s 74th minute penalty kick having given City a three-goal lead entering the final quarter-hour.

City, third in the Premier League, had gone 1-4-1 through their season’s first six road games, but a decisive display at West Brom will help address suspicions Manuel Pellegrini’s side becomes a far more manageable beast on the road. With the three points, the 2011-12 champions move to 28 on the year, staying within one of second place Chelsea, who were 4-3 winners at Sunderland.

West Brom, on the other hand, are now winless in four, last season’s eighth place finishers falling to 13th place after today’s loss.

Threatening from the onset, City broke through the ninth minute when Edin Dzeko put an overlapping Pablo Zabaleta behind the defense and toward the byline, the Argentine right back cutting the ball back toward the penalty spot just before it went into touch. Sergio Agüero, having pulled away from the defense, was open 10 yards out. Scoring for the 11th time this season, Agüero finished into the top of Boaz Myhill’s goal to make it 1-0.

Dominating play throughout the half, City doubled their lead in the 24th minute, with Yaya Toure’s ríght-footed finish from the left of goal beating Myhill after Aleksandar Kolarov’s cross. Despite chances of Edin Dezko, Fernandinho, and a slew of opportunities for Agüero, the visitors would have to content themselves with the 2-0 lead at halftime, having held their hosts without a shot on target.

Though the Baggies showed signs of renewed life in the moments before halftime, City came out in the second half and reasserted a type of benign control, looking capable of bleeding out the final 45 minutes of the match. If there was any doubt about their ability to do so, it ended when Claudio Yacob brought down Kolarov in the West Brom area. Completing his brace, Touré fired his second into the top of Myhill’s goal, giving City a 3-0 lead.

In the 85th minute, West Brom were given their first piece of minor consolation when Kolarov’s clearance of a Matej Vydra ball through the six went off a sprawled Pantilimon and into the Manchester City goal, depriving the recently promoted Citizens’ number one of a clean sheet. It also gave the Baggies the curious distinction of having scored before registering an official shot on target.

By full-time, the Baggies had put a shot on goal – their last chance of the game. With the match out of reach, the Citizens defense apparently turned off, with Victor Anichebe taking advantage by hammering home a shot from the middle of the penalty area in the 94th minute. Though the score brought the Baggies within one, the final whistle blew moments later, City’s commanding night obscured by two late goals.

Though it was one of West Brom’s worst performances of the year, the Citizens deserve more credit than the Baggies do blame. Assertive from the opening whistle, Manchester City looked every bit the title favorites many saw before the season’s first kickoff, and while their inconsistent play has cast them six points back of league-leading Arsenal, on form the Sky Blues look like the best team in the league.

Whether that translates into a climb up the table may depend on how often they can replicate today’s road performance.

Goals

West Bromwich: Costel Pantilimon (o.g.) 85, Victor Anichebe 90+4

Manchester City: Sergio Agüero 9, Yaya Touré 24, 74 (p.k.)

Lineups

West Bromwich Albion: Boaz Myhill; Steven Reid, Gareth McAuley, Jonas Olsson, Liam Ridgewell; Claudio Yacob, James Morrison (Zoltan Géra 64); Morgan Amalfitano (Matej Vydra 76), Chris Brunt; Saido Berahino, Shane Long (Victor Anichebe 65)

Unused Substitutes: Luke Daniels, Diego Lugano, Goran Popov, Stéphane Sessègnon

Manchester City: Costel Pantilimon; Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, Martín Demichelis, Aleksandar Kolarov; Jesús Navas, Yaya Touré (Jack Rodwell 88), Fernandinho, Samir Nasri (Javi García 77); Sergio Agüero (James Milner 69), Edin Dzeko

Unused Substitutes: Joe Hart, Joleon Lescott, Micah Richards, Álvaro Negredo

Mourinho looks to pile title pressure on Chelsea

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A week ago, just before their 2017/18 Premier League season began, Antonio Conte declared Chelsea to be an underdog for the title. It’s right not to put Chelsea to be a favorite,” Conte said.

Jose Mourinho disagrees.

Looking to deflect pressure away from his Manchester United squad, Mourinho declared Chelsea to not only be the favorites to win the Premier League this season and defend their title, but proclaimed it would be a massive disappointment if they didn’t.

[ MORE: Liverpool in an advantageous position regarding Coutinho ]

To Mourinho, the simple fact that Chelsea won last season means they should consider themselves the team to beat going forward. “For me the favorite is the champion,” Mourinho said in his pre-match press conference ahead of Manchester United’s game against Swansea City on Saturday. “Always. Because for some reason [they were] the champion. It doesn’t mean you are going to win it – I think it is the stamp that you have when you are champion, it is that the next season you are the favorite.”

Chelsea seems to have a depth issue at the moment, with injuries plaguing the squad. New signing Tiemoue Bakayoko leaves a big hole in midfield, especially with Nemanja Matic sold to the Red Devils. In addition, Gary Cahill and Pedro will miss time in the near future with suspensions, while superstar Eden Hazard remains out as he recovers from a broken ankle.

Despite all the missing players, Mourinho believes that Chelsea always comes through in the transfer window, and that will solve their problems. “If they have [depth problems], in a couple of weeks the problems are over. They have very good teams, very good players and I don’t see any reason for them not to be fighting for the title.”

Manchester United next meets Chelsea on November 5th in Premier League action at Stamford Bridge.

LA Galaxy offloads Jelle van Damme to native Belgium

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The 2017 season continues to punch LA Galaxy fans right in the gut.

With the club near the basement of the Western Conference standings, the LA Galaxy have officially announced the sale of defensive rock Jelle van Damme to Royal Antwerp of the Belgian top flight. The club confirmed a transfer fee of $235,000.

While van Damme is 33 years old, the sale of fan-favorite van Damme is still a blow both on and off the pitch. With the Galaxy in a period of transition, van Damme was a likeable personality who was known for leaving it all out on the field on gamedays.

The official news release of the transfer made it clear the club did not initiate the transfer with the intention to sell, but instead the player himself requested a return home as his career comes nearer to a close. Van Damme is from Lokeren, Belgium, a town between Antwerp and Ghent.

“Jelle came to us and requested to return home to Belgium to be closer to his children,” LA Galaxy General Manager Pete Vagenas told LAGalaxy.com. “We worked closely with Jelle and Royal Antwerp so that we could make this move possible for Jelle and his family. Our top priority remains the success of the LA Galaxy. We thank him for his time with our club and wish him the best going forward.”

Van Damme joined the Galaxy in early 2016 on a free transfer from Belgian giants Standard Liege. He made 55 total appearances across all competitions, including 46 in league play and another three in the playoffs. The defender’s contract was set to expire in December.

The team has taken a total nosedive in the last two months. Without a league win since June 21st against Colorado, the Galaxy have collected just a single point in league play, and they currently sit just a point off the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

Liverpool holds all the cards in Coutinho saga

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In a time of heightening player control in a rapidly expanding transfer market, one club sticks out as grasping a clear understanding of the shifting business landscape and how to retain its grip on its most valuable assets.

Following the sudden departure of superstar playmaker Neymar, Barcelona is trying desperately to pry Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool. On Friday, numerous reports in England claimed that Barcelona had gone in with a third bid, one even more ridiculous than the previous two. But they’re fighting a losing battle.

For a number of reasons, the Reds hold complete control over Philippe Coutinho’s transfer saga, a saga that will likely end with no transfer having been completed.

First and foremost, Coutinho just recently signed a contract extension in January that runs through 2022. As far as we know, there is no release clause in the deal, meaning at the most basic of levels, Liverpool maintains contractual control. However, as we’ve seen the past few years, that alone hasn’t stopped a number of players forcing their way out.

Yet this time, Liverpool finds itself in an advantageous position outside of just the contract. With the 2018 World Cup right around the corner, the Reds know that should they force Coutinho to stay, he is obligated to play at his best, knowing that any less would see him miss out on a spot in the packed Brazil roster, or at the least a starting position. Thus, Liverpool can be sure that even if their denial of his departure renders him despondent, he will likely remain the quality player he has proven to be.

The money Barcelona is offering – a whopping $151 million according to the most recent reports – is indeed a ludicrous amount for a player who, while quality, does not have nearly the marketability of his countrymate now residing in Paris. On talent alone, Coutinho likely isn’t worth that total, meaning Liverpool should sell. And yet, even with that cash in hand, in this hyper-inflated market where more is less, could it really do justice in replacing his impact in the club? This late in the transfer window, there’s no chance they could replace the 25-year-old, meaning they’d likely be torpedoing their entire season – Champions League included – to feel the warmth of $151 million burning a hole in their pocket until January, or even next summer.

Liverpool has built its entire roster around Coutinho. The arrival of Salah, the use of Firmino, the wide deployment of Mane, the makeup of the midfield. He’s good enough and young enough to be considered a “franchise player.” In two games without Coutinho this season, they’ve scored five goals, but that is a poor metric to describe the 180 wild minutes. The money alone isn’t worth the cost of his departure.

It’s quite possible that Barcelona’s stubbornness, brought on by the sudden loss of a beloved player and the meteoric rise of their rivals to all-time greatness, could see the Catalans come back with an even more preposterous bid. It’s true every player has a value, and at some point, should Barcelona’s blind rage see them flail wildly into the transfer window, the Reds should sell, and will. But with Fenway Sports Group not in dire need of cash and in an advantageous position, in all likelihood they won’t. Barcelona can throw all the Neymar money at Liverpool their heart desires, but nothing will force the Reds to budge.

Top 25 moments in Premier League history: 19-21

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To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Premier League we thought it would be great to count down our top 25 moments from a quarter of a century of action.

[ VIDEO: Top 25 moments in PL history ]

Each week we will release our best moments and you can keep track of the full list here.

Below are numbers 19-21 to as we continue our list.

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